Numbers 18
Benson Commentary
And the LORD said unto Aaron, Thou and thy sons and thy father's house with thee shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary: and thou and thy sons with thee shall bear the iniquity of your priesthood.
Numbers 18:1. The Lord said unto Aaron — Probably by Moses. Having, by the foregoing miracles, vindicated the honour and authority of the priesthood, God now lets Aaron know the importance of his office, wherein he was to behave with great care and circumspection, and withal he again declares what was the duty of the Levites, as distinct from that of the priests, from Numbers 18:1 to Numbers 18:8. And from thence he proceeds to tell them what maintenance he had settled upon both, for their encouragement in doing their duty. Thou and thy sons shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary — Shall suffer the punishment of all the usurpations, or pollutions of the sanctuary, or the holy things, by the Levites, or any of the people, because you have power from me to keep them all within their bounds. Thus the people are, in good measure, secured against their fears. Also they are informed that Aaron’s high dignity was attended with great burdens, having not only his own but the people’s sins to answer for; and therefore they had no such reason to envy him, if the benefits and dangers were equally considered. The iniquity of your priesthood — That is, of all the errors committed by yourselves, or by you permitted in others, in things belonging to your priesthood.

And thy brethren also of the tribe of Levi, the tribe of thy father, bring thou with thee, that they may be joined unto thee, and minister unto thee: but thou and thy sons with thee shall minister before the tabernacle of witness.
Numbers 18:2-3. Minister unto thee — About sacrifices, and offerings, and other things, according to the rules I have prescribed them. The Levites are said to minister to Aaron here; to the church, Numbers 16:9; and to God, Deuteronomy 10:8. They shall not contend with thee for superiority, as they have done, but shall be subordinate to thee. Thy sons with thee — Or, both to thee and to thy sons with thee — Which translation seems to be favoured by the following words, before the tabernacle; which was the proper place where the Levites ministered. Besides, both the foregoing words and the two following verses entirely speak of the ministry of the Levites, and the ministry of the priests is distinctly spoken of, Numbers 18:5. Thy charge — That which thou shalt command them and commit unto them.

And they shall keep thy charge, and the charge of all the tabernacle: only they shall not come nigh the vessels of the sanctuary and the altar, that neither they, nor ye also, die.
And they shall be joined unto thee, and keep the charge of the tabernacle of the congregation, for all the service of the tabernacle: and a stranger shall not come nigh unto you.
And ye shall keep the charge of the sanctuary, and the charge of the altar: that there be no wrath any more upon the children of Israel.
And I, behold, I have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel: to you they are given as a gift for the LORD, to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.
Numbers 18:6-7. To you they are given as a gift — We are to value it as a great gift of the divine bounty, to have those joined to us that will be helpful and serviceable to us in the service of God. The altar — Of burnt-offering. Within the veil — This phrase here comprehends both the holy and the most holy place. As a gift — Which I have freely conferred upon you, and upon you alone; and therefore let no man henceforth dare either to charge you with arrogance in appropriating this to yourselves, or to invade your office.

Therefore thou and thy sons with thee shall keep your priest's office for every thing of the altar, and within the vail; and ye shall serve: I have given your priest's office unto you as a service of gift: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.
And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Behold, I also have given thee the charge of mine heave offerings of all the hallowed things of the children of Israel; unto thee have I given them by reason of the anointing, and to thy sons, by an ordinance for ever.
Numbers 18:8-9. Having pointed out to him the duties of his function, now follows a detail of the emoluments annexed to it; which emoluments are expressly declared to be for Aaron and his sons — That is, for the high- priest, who undoubtedly had a principal portion, and for the inferior priests. I also have given thee the charge — I have bestowed them upon thee for thine use, with a charge that none have them but thyself. By reason of the anointing — Because thou art anointed with the sacred oil, and thereby consecrated to the office of priest, see Leviticus 8:12. Most holy things — Such as were to be eaten only by the priests, and that in the sanctuary. Reserved from the fire — That is, such sacrifices, or parts of sacrifices, as were not burned in the fire. Which they shall render unto me — By way of compensation for a trespass committed against me, in which case a ram was to be offered, which was a most holy thing, and may be particularly designed here.

This shall be thine of the most holy things, reserved from the fire: every oblation of theirs, every meat offering of theirs, and every sin offering of theirs, and every trespass offering of theirs, which they shall render unto me, shall be most holy for thee and for thy sons.
In the most holy place shalt thou eat it; every male shall eat it: it shall be holy unto thee.
Numbers 18:10. In the most holy place shalt thou eat it — In the court of the priests, where there were places for this use, which is called the most holy place, not simply and absolutely, but in respect of the thing he speaks of, because this was the most holy of all the places appointed for eating holy things, whereof some might be eaten in any clean place in the camp, or in their own houses.

And this is thine; the heave offering of their gift, with all the wave offerings of the children of Israel: I have given them unto thee, and to thy sons and to thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: every one that is clean in thy house shall eat of it.
All the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, and of the wheat, the firstfruits of them which they shall offer unto the LORD, them have I given thee.
And whatsoever is first ripe in the land, which they shall bring unto the LORD, shall be thine; every one that is clean in thine house shall eat of it.
Numbers 18:13. Whatsoever is first ripe — Not only the first-fruits of the oil, and wine, and wheat, now mentioned, but all other first-fruits of all other grains, and all fruit-trees. Every one that is clean — And none else, because these fruits were first offered to God, and by consequence given to the priests; but for those which were immediately given to the priests, the clean and unclean might eat of them.

Every thing devoted in Israel shall be thine.
Numbers 18:14-15. Every devoted thing — Dedicated to God by vow or otherwise, provided it be such a thing as might be eaten: for the vessels or treasures of gold and silver which were dedicated by Joshua, David, or others, were not the priests’, but appropriated to the use of the temple. Whether it be of men — Which were offered to God in his temple, and to his service and disposal.

Every thing that openeth the matrix in all flesh, which they bring unto the LORD, whether it be of men or beasts, shall be thine: nevertheless the firstborn of man shalt thou surely redeem, and the firstling of unclean beasts shalt thou redeem.
And those that are to be redeemed from a month old shalt thou redeem, according to thine estimation, for the money of five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs.
Numbers 18:16. Those that are to be redeemed — Namely, of men only, not of unclean beasts, as is manifest from the time and price of redemption here mentioned, both which agree to men; the time, Numbers 18:16; the price, Numbers 3:46-47; but neither agree to unclean beasts, which were to be redeemed with a sheep, (Exodus 13:13,) and that after it was eight days old.

But the firstling of a cow, or the firstling of a sheep, or the firstling of a goat, thou shalt not redeem; they are holy: thou shalt sprinkle their blood upon the altar, and shalt burn their fat for an offering made by fire, for a sweet savour unto the LORD.
Numbers 18:17-18. They are holy — Namely, in a peculiar manner, consecrated to a holy use, even to be sacrificed to God, Deuteronomy 15:19. The flesh — All the flesh of them, and not only some parts, as in other sacrifices.

And the flesh of them shall be thine, as the wave breast and as the right shoulder are thine.
All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer unto the LORD, have I given thee, and thy sons and thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: it is a covenant of salt for ever before the LORD unto thee and to thy seed with thee.
Numbers 18:19. A covenant of salt — A durable and perpetual covenant; so called here, and 2 Chronicles 13:5, either because salt is of singular use to preserve things from corruption, and was an emblem of friendship; or because it was ratified on their part by salt, which is therefore called the salt of the covenant, for which the priests were obliged to take care that it should never be lacking from any meal-offering, Leviticus 2:13. And this privilege conferred upon the priests is called a covenant, because it was given them conditionally, upon condition of their service and care about the worship of God.

And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel.
Numbers 18:20. Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land — In the land of the children of Israel. You shall not have a distinct portion of land, as the other tribes shall. The reason of this law was partly because God would have them wholly devoted to his service, and therefore free from worldly encumbrances, partly because God had abundantly provided for them otherwise, by tithes, and first-fruits, and oblations, and partly that, by this means, being dispersed among the several tribes, they might have the better opportunity for teaching and watching over the people. I am thy part — I have appointed thee a liberal maintenance out of my oblations.

And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.
Numbers 18:21-22. The tenth — For the tithes were all given to the Levites, and out of their tithes the tenth was given to the priests. Come nigh the tabernacle — So nigh as to do any proper act to the priests or Levites.

Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die.
But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance.
Numbers 18:23. Their iniquity — The punishment due not only for their own, but also for the people’s miscarriage, if it be committed through their connivance or negligence. And this was the reason why the priests withstood King Uzziah, when he would have burnt incense to the Lord.

But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.
Numbers 18:24. A heave-offering — An acknowledgment that they have all their land and the fruits of it from God’s bounty. Note, the word heave-offering, which is for the most part understood of a particular kind of offerings heaved or lifted up to the Lord, is here used for any offering.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe.
Numbers 18:26. Ye shall offer up a heave-offering — They who are employed in assisting the devotions of others, must be sure to pay their own as a heave- offering. Prayers and praises, or rather the heart lifted up in them, are now our heave-offerings.

And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshingfloor, and as the fulness of the winepress.
Numbers 18:27-28. As though it were the corn — It shall be accepted of you as much as if you offered it out of your own lands and labours. To Aaron — And to his children, who were all to have their share herein.

Thus ye also shall offer an heave offering unto the LORD of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the LORD'S heave offering to Aaron the priest.
Out of all your gifts ye shall offer every heave offering of the LORD, of all the best thereof, even the hallowed part thereof out of it.
Numbers 18:29. Your gifts — Not only out of your tithes, but out of the other gifts which you receive from the people, and out of those fields which shall belong to your cities. Offer — To the priest. As many gifts, so many heave- offerings; you shall reserve a part out of each of them for the priest. The hallowed part — The tenth part, which was the part or proportion that God hallowed or sanctified to himself as his proper portion.

Therefore thou shalt say unto them, When ye have heaved the best thereof from it, then it shall be counted unto the Levites as the increase of the threshingfloor, and as the increase of the winepress.
And ye shall eat it in every place, ye and your households: for it is your reward for your service in the tabernacle of the congregation.
And ye shall bear no sin by reason of it, when ye have heaved from it the best of it: neither shall ye pollute the holy things of the children of Israel, lest ye die.
Numbers 18:32. Neither shall ye pollute the holy things — As you will do, if you abuse their holy offerings, by reserving that entirely to yourselves which they offer to God, to be disposed as he hath appointed, namely, part to you, and part to the priests. Thus we learn in what manner God regulated the offices of the priests and Levites, and how he provided for their subsistence. The tribe of Levi had no part nor inheritance in the land of Canaan as the other tribes had; but had for their share the tithes of the whole country; and the priests, in particular, had their portions of the sacrifices and offerings, and a tenth part of the tithes. By these means the ministers of religion were supported in a comfortable, decent manner, without being forced to neglect the duties of their function to provide for the necessities of the body. This proves that, in the Christian Church, provision should be made for the maintenance of those that serve in the sacred ministry, as St. Paul teaches: “They which minister about holy things, live by the things of the temple; and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar; even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel, should live by the gospel.”

Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

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